A series of recent teen parties celebrating high school graduations have caused a "mini surge" of COVID-19 cases in Greenwich, Connecticut, and prompted state officials to issue a fresh round of warnings to families.
The town’s health department reported 47 new cases in the last week, more than half of which were between the ages of 16 and 21, according to the Greenwich Sentinel. Town officials are expected to meet next week to discuss the issue. “We’re done with warnings,” First Selectman Fred Camillo said on Tuesday. “We’re going to take action.”
Currently, the rules in Connecticut limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, and outdoor gatherings to 100 people. In both cases, social distancing and face coverings are required.
Through contact tracing, the health department has been able to determine that many of the teen cases can be linked to large parties held in town between July 15th and 19th. “Younger kids think they’re immune to it and they can fight it. In many cases they are, but the concern has always been they’re going to come into contact with people who have compromised immune systems,” Camillo added.
News of the gatherings in Greenwich have drawn extra attention given the town’s standing as one of the country’s most affluent communities, dotted with hedge-lined mega-mansions. On Friday, the New York Times ran a story with the headline: “In Ultra-Wealthy Greenwich, Teen Parties Lead to Jump in Virus Cases.”
The paper reported that the recent infections were linked to parties attended by “seniors who had just finished their final year at two elite private college-preparatory schools, Greenwich Academy and the Brunswick School, as well as the local public high school, Greenwich High School.”
A player on the Greenwich High School football team tested positive, forcing other players into quarantine, while roughly a dozen students at a private school did not show up at their graduation ceremony on Saturday because they had come into contact with someone who had tested positive. Even a country club shut down after a swim coach was potentially exposed.
Contract tracers have had some trouble getting the full extent of the outbreak however — some teens have refused to discuss whether they went to the parties, and some said "they had been told by their parents not to share information about the parties."
There's also reportedly been a similar outbreak of COVID infections in nearby Darien, Connecticut, after five people between the ages of 10 and 19 tested positive for the virus on one day. “It’s summertime,” Jayme Stevenson, the first selectman of Darien, told the Times. “It’s beach weather. People are out on boats. They are having parties. And I think they are beginning to let their guard down. It’s critically important that young people understand that they can get the virus and they can spread the virus.”
Across the country, reports of large gatherings by young people have drawn concern and condemnation. Last weekend, New Jersey police broke up a 700-person house party in Ocean County, where one witness said she saw “packs of kids, young adults.” NJ Governor Phil Murphy has blamed these indoor house parties for the growing number of coronavirus cases in the state; there have been more than 2,000 cases over the past four days alone.
"When there are hundreds of people crammed into a house where the air conditioning system is simply blowing the air around and where people are not wearing face coverings, you have also invited coronavirus to your party," said Governor Murphy.
You can read more about NYC's own illicit underground party scene here.